house church movement on charges of providing intelligence to overseas organizations, while nearly one hundred other Christians have been released, human rights watchers said Thursday August 5.
The Intermediate Peoples Court of Hangzhou city in Zhejiang province was expected to deliver its verdict Friday, August 6, to Liu Fenggang, Xu Yonghai and Zhang Shengqi, almost 10 months after their detention, China Aid Association (CAA) said.
One of them, Mr. Liu, reportedly wrote articles on the government’s actions on the destruction of the house church buildings in several areas of Zhejiang province in 2003. CAA quoted sources as saying that prosecutors accused the three Christians of leaking information about a court case which happened in Anshan city, Liaoning province to an overseas magazine in 2000.
The organization said that under Chinese Criminal Law, these Christians could face up to ten years or even life in prison if convicted.
"These charges are simply baseless and absurd," said CAA President Bob Fu in a statement seen by BosNewsLife. "First of all…the Chicago-based Christian Life Quarterly magazine is a well -known world recognized evangelical Chinese Christian magazine. Second to report a court case open to the public doesn’t involve any national intelligence at all. Thirdly, if reporting the truth like this is regarded as "national secret" people will inevitably wonder how much more such secrets haven’t been revealed under the tight secret system in China," he added.
The news came amid reports that all but eight of one hundred Christian leaders arrested on July 12 by security forces were released, said the Voice Of the Martyrs, quoting CAA sources. "The release was surprising, since thirty had already been shaved in preparation for labor camps. The group leader expresses deep gratitude to those who worked to help secure the release," said VOM, which investigates the plight of persecuted believers.
CAA added that Christian Deborah Xu is again under house arrest, after going missing for several. She was told to not leave her residence without permission from the Department of State Security, human rights watchers say. Christians are also reportedly persecuted elsewhere in China, where human rights groups recently reported on a "secret directive" given by Communist authorities to crack down on active churches.
VOM said that one of those suffering is Pastor Gong Shengliang, the founder of the South China Church, who was arrested in 2001 and is currently not allowed to have private meetings with his family, which has expressed concern about his health. "According to VOM sources, Gong’s sister was able to visit him on July 14 (but) unlike other prisoners is not allowed face-to-face visits and is under constant observation by two guards."
"According to his sister, his health is still problematic, but his spirits are better and he expresses his thanks to all who care about him and the South China Church," VOM said in a newsletter. Gong is presently serving life in prison, VOM said. It also asked its supporters "to pray" for an elderly leader of the South China Church, Chen Jingmao, who it said had both his legs broken by guards for leading 50 inmates to Christ.
"Recently, his family traveled hundreds of miles to the labor camp at Sichuan only to be thrown out because Chen had complained about his mistreatment and expressed fear for his life." Thousands of Christians and political dissidents are believed to be imprisoned across China, where the government has expressed concern about the growing number of Christians. The country is said to experience the world’s largest church growth. Chinese officials have denied human rights abuses, saying police forces only crack down on "dangerous sects."